Sunday, May 4, 2008

Thinking about Learning

I put up the previous post to give a bit of background for this one. Fisher and Frey talk about learning as a transition from Teachers doing all the work to the eventual Student doing all the work. They argue that the hierarchy moves from Focus Lessons to Guided Instruction to Collaborative Learning and finally to Independent Learning where students have received modeled, guided, and collaborative learning experiences related to concepts needed to complete independent tasks. Independent tasks extend beyond practice to application and extension of new knowledge.

Stephen Covey, author of 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, puts forth the argument that personal development moves from a state of Dependence to a state of Independence and finally to a state of Interdependence. Covey is stating that people who are secure in themselves can synergistically blend their talents and ideas with those of others to create a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts.

I think it's interesting to wonder which is the most important, collaboration or independence. "Both" would be the easy answer. I think the real answer is something like this:

1. Focus Lessons: We need someone to get us started.

2. Guided Instruction: We need help getting started.

3. Collaboration: We need to work together to create something new and wonderful.

4. Independence: We are ready to independently experiment and hone our craft


5. Collaboration: When we hit a roadblock as an independent learner, we must share our ideas with others in order that this blending creates something new which overcomes the barrier.


6. Independence: We set out on our new path (until the next roadblock, then we go to collaboration again).

Thinking about my own learning in the past few years, most of it has been either collaborative or independent, and rarely has it been exclusively either one. In fact, I'd say that the times when I was most independent were probably the times when I repeated myself the most, thus creating my own roadblock. The times when I was most collaborative, I think I lost a bit of the self worth and pride that comes from independent achievement.

Both are necessary. Neither is superior.

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